Madison: The influence of major European parties on Estonian counterparts

Jaak Madison.
Jaak Madison. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Democracy is an illusion – what matters is not the choices people make at elections or their ability to participate through referendums but the approval or veto of European parties. Jaak Madison writes about the influence of major parties over domestic counterparts following the example of the Center Party.

There is a conviction in society that parties are formed based on different worldviews and ideologies. Whether what sets a party apart is left- or right-wing economic policy or a more socially liberal or conservative worldview depends on each individual party.

However, the recent government crisis and the reasons behind the incoming coalition of the Reform Party and Center Party make it impossible to ignore the influence of pan-European parties towering above our local ones. The polemic and debate revolving around the marriage referendum that saw the intervention of high-ranking European party functionaries was the clearest proof of this.

Reform and Center are both members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Pan-European parties are made up of national parties that think alike and share a similar ideology.

The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) that I am a member of belongs to the Identity and Democracy party in Europe that is made up of forces that have nationalism, respect for democracy and Eurorealism or protection of sovereignty at heart.

While Reform and Center try to contrast to one another in Estonia before elections and come off as different parties, their affiliation within the same European party betrays their identical policy as concerns the European Union, direct democracy or family policy. It was the latter in regard to which we clearly saw compliance with instructions from ALDE.

ALDE launched a review of the Center Party and Estonia immediately after Riigikogu elections and the forming of the government in the summer of 2019. The report was put together by ALDE vice presidents Henrik Bach Mortensen from the Danish party Vestre and Annelou van Egmond from the Dutch party D66 who visited Tallinn on September 2-3, 2019 and met with representatives of both the Center Party and Reform Party.

Let it be said that D66 has been a fierce proponent of euthanasia, gay marriage and prostitution. They also strongly support a federal EU with a common migration policy.

The official reason for the report was Center's decision to form a coalition with the Conservative People's Party. ALDE found it terribly inappropriate as they feel EKRE does not represent the correct values. ALDE did not care about election results in Estonia or the will of the people but rather its own idea of right and wrong.

The ALDE report published in October of 2019 highlights opposition to the planned referendum to specify the concept of marriage in Estonia and define it exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. The report reads: "This rephrasing could cause the disappearance of equal rights regarding marriage and contribute to social splits." The rapporteurs cared nothing for the Estonian Constitution or the opinion of its people – only their own ideological position.

Annelou von Egmond from the Dutch radical liberal D66 party told ERR in an interview that the plan to hold a referendum to define the concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman was the faction's biggest concern.

Van Egmond said: "We find that introducing these changes on the level of the Estonian Constitution would mean serious retrogression and be worrying." ALDE representatives also promised to keep a close eye on Center.

Based on these facts, we can say with confidence that the Center Party and Reform Party do not regard it as their priority to protect the will of the Estonian people, our democracy or election results. These are all secondary matters for the parties.

Can we even talk about democracy and the will of the people in a situation where the influence of European parties over member state counterparts is this extensive? Is there any sense in claiming that the people will decide the policy and decisions they want to see at elections if major parties made up of our domestic political forces meddle in domestic policy unseen?

These are deeply troubling developments that once again prove that democracy is an illusion – what matters is not the choices people make at elections or their ability to participate through referendums but the approval or veto of European parties.

That is precisely what we are seeing in the alliance of the Center Party and Reform Party where principled decisions will need to be aligned with the ALDE mainstream. The opinion of the Estonian society and voters counts for nothing.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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